October 30, 2018 1 Comment
Samhain is nearly here again, that sacred time of the year when the veil between the two worlds is at its thinnest and magic and mischief fill the air. Also known as Halloween or All Hallow’s Eve, this Gaelic festival has ancient origins and traditions that still persist today.
One of the most intriguing Halloween traditions is the idea of fancy dress, whether it’s children donning cute costumes to go trick-or-treating, or adults stepping into disguise for Halloween parties. This time of year is when the souls and spirits of those that have passed into the Otherworld are able to cross over more easily into ours, and the idea of dressing up for Halloween is connected to this.
Dressing up as the dead was traditionally a way to imitate or impersonate the spirits of the Otherworld. There were two reasons for this: the first was to pay respect or tribute to the dead. The other was to disguise oneself from the more sinister spirits by hiding among them.
While Halloween costumes are definitely becoming more creative and contemporary, there are a few classic costumes that will always stand the test of time. Let's have a look at some of them, and the histories behind them.
Pointed black hat, black dress, warty nose...no matter where you are for Halloween, you'll probably see a witch or two hanging - or flying - around. Wearing a witch costume at Halloween is a tribute to the Pagan origins of Samhain. Witchcraft as a practice is deeply influenced by Paganism, combining nature, ritual and magic. But what are the origins of this stereotypical image of a witch?
The origins of the pointed witch's hat are a bit murky. There's historical evidence that pointed hats were worn in religious rituals and ceremonies as early as the 12th century, which is why they might have come to be associated with spell-casting witches. Points were also related to devil's horns, and as witchcraft was often wrongfully associated with devil worship, this may have led to the depiction of witches with pointed hats.
As for the warty witch nose...this probably comes from the mythology of the 'crone', the archetypal figure of the wise woman with supernatural abilities who can either help or hinder a hero's journey. Crones are often imagined as being grotesque in appearance, leading to the warty nose and off-colour skin. But this is just one of many 'witchy' images. If you really delve deeply into the history of witchcraft, you'll discover there are a number of ways to get creative with your witch costume this Halloween.
Animal costumes are always popular at Halloween, but the classic black cat might be the most recognisable. Black cats and witch costumes actually go hand-in-hand, as the idea of the black cat probably comes from the mythology of the 'familiar'. Familiars are animal companions - normally domestic - who help you with your magical practice, whatever that may be. If you're interested in the history of familiars, you should have a read of our previous blog post, 'Of Feathers and Fur'.
Cats are popular familiars as they have been associated with the magical world since Ancient Egypt, when they were worshipped as manifestations of the goddess Bast and Sekhmet. They're also closely linked to the world of superstition, whether you believe that a black cat crossing your path is bad luck, or that cats can predict when a human is sick or close to death. As Halloween is a time when the veil between two worlds flutters open, dressing up as a cat is all too appropriate.
Pumpkins aren't traditionally spooky, yet they're everywhere at Halloween. And dressing up as a pumpkin can be a fun light-hearted alternative to some of the darker dress-ups out there. But what's the connection between pumpkins and Samhain?
Samhain happens in October in the Northern hemisphere, a time when pumpkins and other root vegetables like squash and turnips are plentiful. It's said that the tradition of carving goofy or scary faces into pumpkins came about as a way of scaring off evil spirits, or simply giving a fright to travelers or wayfarers passing through town. So that's why you see so many ghoulishly grinning jack-o-lanterns at this time of year, and why you might end up choosing one as your more palatable Halloween costume.
It's not hard to guess why ghosts are a classic Halloween costume choice. As Samhain is a time to celebrate the spirits of the dead and their visits from the Otherworld, dressing up as a ghost is a direct interpretation of this. But why, when people dress up as ghosts, do they often choose to wear a sheet with holes cut in the eyes?
The simple explanation is that this is an easy and budget costume choice. Most people have an old set of bedsheets and a pair of scissors they can spare if they don't have the time or money for a more extravagant costume, and being an ethereal shapeless white figure is a simple way to represent an elusive spirit of the dead.
But the truth might be a bit more interesting. It's been said that the bedsheet ghost might actually come from the idea of a burial shroud. In older times, when people died they were often wrapped in a white burial shroud. So when their spirits returned to our world during Samhain, perhaps they'd still be wearing the shroud they were buried in - leading to the bedsheet ghost. Either way, it's an easy choice if you're still trying to figure out what to dress up as last-minute.
If we're talking about spirits that cross over between the worlds of the living and the dead, then vampires are all too appropriate. These popular mythic figures are sometimes known as 'the living dead' or the 'undead' - shadowy human-like creatures that feed on the blood of the living in order to retain immortal life.
The hallmark of a vampire costume is definitely fangs, all the better to suck the blood of your victims. But vampire costumes also commonly involve a classic tuxedo and cape with a dramatic collar. This fashion come from cultural depictions of vampires, such as Bram Stokers Dracula, the 1922 horror film Nosferatu, or even Sesame Street's 'The Count'. In these depictions, the titular vampire is posing as a human count, so wears European aristocratic garb with a dramatic flair. This has now come to be known as one of the most recognisable images of the classic vampire, and is commonly seen at Halloween.
So as you can see, classic Halloween costumes are more than just a chance to become someone - or something - else for an evening. They're entrenched in history and mythology, and are a way of imitating and connecting with the lost spirits of the Otherworld. Whatever you choose to become this Samhain, we wish you a sacred and plentiful festival!
October 07, 2018 1 Comment
The four elements of earth, fire, air and water are considered to be the building blocks of nature. Together, they form the balance of the natural world. If you have a magical practice, you likely already incorporate the four elements into your rituals and ceremonies. And you might already have an idea about the four elemental beings who correspond to each of the elements.
Elementals are the spiritual beings that connect the physical world to the higher plane. They're mythic and archetypal in nature, and form the basis for many of the fantastical creatures we come across in legend and folklore, like fairies and dragons. These elementals can be called upon in your magical practice or standard meditation in order to connect more deeply to the natural world, and regain a sense of balance and order in your life that might be missing.
Let's take a look at each of the four elements, their corresponding elementals, and how you can work with them:
The element of earth manifests itself in the form of a gnome - a benevolent creature that dwells under the ground and is connected to soil, roots, dirt and earth in in its most primitive sense. Gnomes are normally depicted as humanoid yet diminutive, and are interchangeable in some myths and stories with dwarves, brownies and even hobgoblins. All of these creatures are associated with hard work, labour and the physical world.
The element of fire manifests itself in the form of a salamander - a lizard-like creature that survives and thrives in fire. Salamanders are actually a real-life group of amphibians as well, but the elemental salamander is more mythic in nature, having the ability to live amongst flames without being burnt. Not surprisingly, salamanders are closely related - and sometimes interchangeable - with the legendary fire-breathing dragon. They symbolise passion, wild energy and transformation.
Salamanders can be called on in your practice when you're feeling flat or lacking zeal in your life. Like how fire sparks from nothing, and how electricity lights the world, salamander energy can give you the kickstart you need to jump back into action.
Head somewhere hot, like the desert or hot springs, or simply gather around the hearth in your home or a campfire outside to connect with this lively element. Fire can be conjured in your ritual practice in the form of candles, incense or burning essential oils. When you're connected with your fire elemental, you'll feel like you have the energy and drive you need to achieve all your goals.
The element of air manifests itself in the form of a sylph - an ethereal being of the sky, closely related to fairies and angels. Sylphs are often depicted as having wings, though they can also be capable of wingless flight. They're gentle, buoyant and can also be associated with music, particularly that of bells and wind instruments. They symbolise motion, travel and imagination.
Sylphs can be called on in your practice when you're struggling to move forward or lacking creative inspiration. Sylphs have the power of flight, so they're powerful agents of travel and adventure, whether that's a big overseas trip or simply a change in your daily routine. They also represent a higher consciousness and the realms of the imagination.
Head to the mountains or hilltops to connect with your air elemental, or simply take a walk, a ride, or a drive somewhere new. Air can be symbolised in your practice with feathers, fallen leaves, a bell for music, or smoke from incense. Connecting with your air element will give you the motion and inspiration you need to move forward.
Elemental being: Undines
The element of water manifests itself in the form of an undine - a type of ethereal human-like spirit that inhabits oceans, lakes and other bodies of water. Undines are often associated with mermaids and sirens, but they're traditionally not fish-like in nature, and more closely resemble a human figure. Unlike mermaids and sirens, undines are completely benevolent. They symbolise cleansing, healing and nurturing.
Undines can be called on in your practice when you have a need for cleansing and starting anew. Water is associated with the traditional baptism ritual, and is believed to have the capacity to cleanse one of their sins, or pains of the past.
To connect with the water element, head anywhere with a water body, whether it's the ocean, lake, pond, creek, river or well. Water is one of the easiest elements to symbolise in your practice, capturing it in a vessel like a cauldron, chalice or cup, or even shells or river pebbles from your visits to water bodies. When you're connected with your water elemental, you'll feel healed of all negative energy and ready to start afresh.
The world of elemental magic is complex and multi-layered, and this is just a small peek into the realm. Hopefully it helps you to connect with the four elements and their spiritual manifestations, in order to forge a deeper understanding of the natural world and a greater sense of balance and meaning in your own life.
September 18, 2018 1 Comment
The moon is a powerful and alluring being. She lights our night skies, and influences the ebb and flow of the tides. She was the first celestial body that humans ever stepped foot on other than Earth. She's inspired songs and art, religion and science. So it shouldn't be a surprise that the cycles of the moon affect more than just our skies. They affect our lives and energies, too.
Why does the moon have phases?
Most people know the varying phases of the moon - from new moon to full moon, waxing to waning. But why exactly does the moon appear to have a different shape across the course of a month?
This part is explained by simple science. As the Earth revolves around the sun, the moon revolves around the Earth, making a full cycle once every 29.5 days (or roughly a month). As the moon makes this revolution, it's lit by the sun from varying different angles, giving us the difference in 'shape' - or amount of light - that we see in the sky.
How do the moon phases affect our energy?
It's a common belief that different moon phases are associated with different types of spiritual energy. You've probably heard of full moons being a time for magic and madness - in fact, the word 'lunatic' stems from the word 'lunar', meaning related to the moon. Other moon phenomena are widely said to have cosmic connotations - blood moons are associated with aggression and passion, 'blue moons' indicate something extremely rare, and eclipses are times of transformation.
People have even turned to science to try to link the moon's energy with our own. After all, if the moon affects the tides, then is it so far-fetched that it could affect our own bodies, given that they also contain water? While this particular theory has been scientifically dispelled, it doesn't stop the fact that many people spiritually feel the pull and push of the moon's movements.
So, how exactly might the phases of the moon affect our own spiritual energies? Here's a summary of moon phase meanings and how they might impact your life:
THE NEW MOON
New beginnings and fresh starts
The new moon occurs when the moon either isn't visible, or is barely visible, in the night sky. This is because the Sun is only illuminating the side of the moon that we can't see, leaving the half that we can see in the dark.
The moon might seem 'empty' or 'absent' during this phase, which is why it's the perfect symbol of new beginnings. The moon is about to begin her cycle again, appearing to 'grow' in the night sky over the course of the next month. So this is a time to wipe your slate clean, leave the past in the past, and look towards the future. People often feel introverted or lack energy during the new moon, but this isn't cause for despair. Allow yourself this special time to retreat and reflect, before the moon - and you - can begin your growth again.
Setting intentions and goals
When a small sliver of the moon becomes illuminated by the Sun, we have what is called a 'crescent moon'. When the moon is 'growing' (moving from new to full), this is a 'waxing crescent'.
A waxing crescent is a time for setting your goals and intentions for the month ahead. You allowed yourself to rest during the new moon, and now your energy is stirring again. Determine what your dreams and desires are, and focus your new energy there. This is a good time for planning and to-do lists.
FIRST QUARTER MOON
Action and impetus
The 'first quarter' moon is actually when the moon is half illuminated in the sky, halfway between being new and full. It's called a 'quarter' moon, because it's a quarter of the way through its full cycle from new to new again.
This is the time to act upon the intentions you set during the waxing crescent moon. You'll feel a drive and desire to do, move, and create during the first quarter, and you should definitely ride with it. You'll have the spiritual energy and motivation to work hard and advance towards the goals you've determined.
Refinement and focus
The 'waxing gibbous' moon is when the moon almost looks full in the sky, but isn't quite there yet. It's still making its journey between new and full, and will be fully illuminated in the next few nights.
A waxing gibbous moon is your period between the action and energy you've experienced during the previous moon cycles, and the intensity of the full moon. This is a time to re-focus and refine your energy. Make sure that you're on the right track, and haven't deviated from the intentions you set yourself. This way, you'll be able to fully reap the rewards that the impending full moon offers.
THE FULL MOON
Intensity and wholeness
The 'full moon' occurs when the sun and moon are on opposite sides of the Earth, allowing the sun to fully illuminate the moon. During this phase, the moon will appear as a full, glowing circle in the sky.
This is the moon phase that people are most familiar with. Many have experienced the feeling of intensity during the full moon. Your energy will feel 'full', and emotions will be heightened. If you've used the previous moon phases to your advantage, the full moon will be a rewarding time when all things fall into place and you're filled with gratitude, happiness and productivity. But it can also be a difficult time if your emotions are misaligned - intensity might lead to anger or chaos. So being aware and in tune of your own energy cycles is crucial to fully harnessing the magic of the full moon.
Gratitude and generosity
As the moon begins to move through the other side of its cycle, the illuminated portion will begin to decrease, resulting in a 'waning gibbous'.
The light may be lessening from the moon, but this isn't a time of loss. Rather, it's a time to be grateful and at peace with what you've learnt and achieved during the month. Reach out to say thank-you to anyone who's helped you along the way, and reflect on the positive results of your hard work.
Cleansing and purging
The 'last quarter' moon occurs when the moon is half illuminated in the sky, making its way from full to new again.
The moon is nearing the end of its cycle here, and this makes it a perfect time for cleansing and letting go of any negative energy that might be residual from the last month. If things haven't gone exactly how you planned, you'll soon have a chance to start anew. This is a chance to get rid of any mess or unnecessary weight in your life.
Relaxing and surrender
Like its waxing counterpart, the 'waning crescent' moon appears like a sliver of light in the sky, almost in its final phase.
This is a time to let out a sigh and let things go. Allow yourself to retreat and relax, ready for the new moon to begin again. You'll feel your energy starting to deplete, so don't feel guilty if you want to clear your calendar and prepare for a night at home in bed. You will have worked hard during the past month, so you deserve it.
And back to the new moon once more!
The moon's journey provides a visible anchor to the passing of time, and the changing of our moods and energy levels. If you've never paid close attention to how the moon affects your life, try keeping a moon diary, taking note of each moon phase and the events and emotions in your life during that time. You might just find that they're more closely aligned than you previously thought!
And check out some of our moon-themed products below, drawing on the magic and mystery of this celestial beauty.